Date: Wed, 12 May 1999 18:07:06 +0100
From: Elisabeth Burr <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: 13.0001 HAPPY now we are 12 BIRTHDAY
First of all my congratulations to HUMANIST and then a big, big
thank you to Willard.
HUMANIST, what does it mean to me? It means very many topics
which I am interested in. It means very many topics I haven't
thought about before. I don't say that I am reading all the messages
every day. Sometimes workload leads me to very severe choices,
the rest has to go. Sometimes I keep messages in order to read them
later, sometimes I do, sometimes I just have to say I can't and chuck
them out. I don't step in very often, because it takes time to write,
but I have been given so many ideas, arguments, strategies, information
and, I have been give much support, above all lately, when I was told
Italianistic at Duisburg university will be closed. It's not over yet, it
might only just be starting, but I want to thank HUMANIST for bringing
my cry of help to humanists and I want to thank all who responded with
I think the importance of HUMANIST is very much what Willard calls
At 07:29 07.05.99 +0100, you wrote:
> Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 13, No. 1.
> Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
> Date: Fri, 07 May 1999 07:29:39 +0100
> From: Willard McCarty <email@example.com>
>Most of you will know from having been around Humanist's barn at least once
>that on this day each year I commemorate the beginning of our seminar, 7
>May 1987, when I was mccarty@utorepas (like Alcuin of York :-), knew next
>to nothing about e-mail and very likely would have experienced total
>cerebral meltdown had I known what the subsequent 12 years would bring.
>Like many things Humanist changed very quickly at first, developing into a
>robust entity by virtue of several crises and a stalwart, intelligent
>membership. As I've said a number of times, the best thing I did then was
>to let it find its way. As it has. For the last several years, however,
>Humanist has held to a steady state, hovering around 1,100 members -- or,
>rather, subscriptions; several of these are redistribution points. At one
>time we did a yearly review of activities, but that grew to be too much of
>a burden. In any case, I'm not threatening you here with a retrospection,
>rather an introspection. I admit that looking at the subject lines of the
>messages in the archive at IATH (Virginia) for volume 12 (1998-99) I am
>greatly cheered and encouraged by the richness and variety of discussion.
>We have every reason to expect this to continue through volume 13, into the
>(oh yes) next millennium.
>In 1900 the German mathematician David Hilbert gave a justly famous lecture
>in Paris, "Mathematische Probleme", in which he surveyed his discipline and
>set forth a programme of research for the century ahead. I doubt we can
>quite manage that for humanities computing at the moment (though I continue
>to try, and we have another year), but the lecture, translated into English
>and put online at <http://aleph0.clarku.edu/~djoyce/hilbert/problems.html>,
>is instructive for the highly pragmatic view Hilbert took of his field,
>asking what it needed to continue to be vital. He pointed out that a vital
>field is one which has problems of its own to work on, and that these
>problems must be at the right level of difficulty so as to be challenging
>but not overwhelming. Mathematicians have different sorts of problems than
>we do, of course, but mutatis mutandis we can learn from his approach. It's
>about time we did some work on what the research agenda of humanities
>computing might be, to get past the silly stage of "yes it has!" / "no it
>hasn't!". In fact my first inclination for a more than phatic happy
>birthday to Humanist is to suggest that in the year ahead we put on
>Hilbert's mantle and give ourselves, through discussion here, real work to do.
>My second inclination is simply to celebrate with unreckonable gratitude
>the existence of this electronic seminar through its 12th birthday. Forgive
>me, if you will, for becoming personal, but, hey, I do this just once a
>year (ok, twice, counting Christmas :-), and the delete key is not far off.
>Just in case the love in this labour of love is not obvious, I here declare
>it, and for an excuse I point out that I am far gone in my cups at this
>birthday party. "A liquor never brewed [drunk] from tankards scooped in
>pearl" is to blame, but I have more than one reason for drinking it.
>Another wonderfully simultaneous cause for celebration possesses me... but
>there are limits even to the license I give myself, and besides, this other
>event (to quote Northrop Frye in the acknowledgements to The Great Code)
>goes beyond the orbit of words altogether, and requires nothing short of a
>Million Dollar Bash -- which it will get.
>I have had many occasions in this past year to think about long hauls and
>what it might be that over them keeps very different people together,
>talking productively as so often happens here, and makes a community out of
>the aggregate. Endurance and an open channel of communication are necessary
>but not sufficient. The channel has to be frequently used, especially when
>it is entirely virtual, as with Humanist, and so is quickly forgotten if
>not exercised. Chit-chat may indirectly communicate matters of considerable
>importance, and I suppose to a degree everything we say is chit-chat with
>respect to the unsayable on which we triangulate. Nevertheless clear
>thinking and care in getting it right, especially against the incrustations
>of habit and dumbing down from received thought, seem to me absolutely
>essential to the marriage of true minds in a seminar worth holding, as in a
>life worth living. Effort, despite best intentions and skill, is of course
>not enough. Something else is required -- a court and spark of identity?
>something genuine, something more discovered than created, around which to
>Like everyone else I am still working on the larger human problem, but for
>Humanist the explanation for our survival, it seems to me, is quite clear.
>We talk because we have things to say; we talk together because these
>things constitute a coherent perspective, whose pursuit is a scholarly
>activity. We may not quite have the choreography of what we do just yet,
>but we will.
>Meanwhile, congratulations to Humanist! Now begins our adolescence, and
>with Blake's "Glad Day" in mind I promise you that
>When "Landlords" turn the drunken Bee
>Out of the Foxglove's door --
>When Butterflies renounce their "drams"
>I shall but drink the more!
>Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats
>And Saints to windows run
>To see the little Tippler
>Leaning against the Sun.
> Humanist Discussion Group
> Information at <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/>
PD Dr'in Elisabeth Burr
Gerhard Mercator Universitaet-GH Duisburg
Tel.: +49 203 3791957
fax: +49 203 3793122
Humanist Discussion Group
Information at <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/>